Ga. Supreme Court decision affects DUI arrests

Supreme Court ruling impacts DUI arrests

ATLANTA -- A new state Supreme Court ruling could let some drunk drivers walk. The judges unanimously ruled the current way of taking blood from a potentially impaired driver is often unconstitutional.

Defense attorneys, police and prosecutors will meet this week to figure out what happens next. While this could make proving some DUI cases tougher, it should also close what some call a confusing and conflicting message in the law.

Court records say John Williams was "weaving dangerously", "unable to stay in his lane" as he drove down Indian Shoals Road. A blood test revealed three different prescription drugs -- one of them two and half times the normal dosage. That evidence that led to his DUI conviction -- evidence the Georgia Supreme Court now says may have been illegally obtained.

Attorney Phillip Holloway says the Gwinnett County officer that made the arrest didn't do anything wrong. The problem is with the process itself: when a driver is given the choice whether to take a breathalyzer or blood test, he's not really given much of a choice at all.

Think of it like this: your body is like your house. Police can't look at what's inside without your permission or a search warrant. So police ask if it's OK, reading you a consent law which says that if you don't take the test you could lose your license for a year.

The court wants to see a distinction between the rules set by driver services and the law -- in this case your Fourth Amendment rights.

"The courts are going to have to find a way to verify the person knowingly and voluntarily waived their rights before they can introduce this evidence at trial," Holloway said.

That could mean asking a few more questions to make sure drivers understand the difference. or it could take legislative change.This could lead more people may say no to the test, but if they do, police can still arrest them and seek a search warrant, or use the field sobriety test and witness statements as evidence.

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